Manchester United linked with talented Derby County and England U21 midfielder

Will Hughes

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has signed Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic already this season, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan still to be confirmed as a United player. The Sun on Monday reported that the Portuguese manager is now averting his attention to Derby County midfielder Will Hughes in a bid to boost his homegrown talent at the club. United have asked Derby County to keep them informed of the progress of Hughes at the iPro Stadium. The 21-year-old had an unfortunate period last season, sitting on the sidelines for eight months after suffering a knee ligament injury, with the player returning to action in April. The Sun suggest that United feel Hughes could be part of their first team set up this coming season, in a bid to earn his stripes at the club in the future. he clearly has the talent to succeed and it is good to now hear that big clubs hold an interest in him.

The Sun suggest that Derby County will demand £7 million for Hughes, but that is a pretty preposterous sum for a player clearly worth more than that – at least double, a minimum of £15 million should be held out for a player with such a future ahead of him. I am not the only one to think this. So far this summer, Championship club Newcastle United has purchased Matt Ritchie from Bournemouth for £12 million and Dwight Gayle from Crystal Palace for £10 million, which straight away dwarfs the fee mentioned in The Sun for Hughes. Both Ritchie and Gayle have Premier League experience, which will be good for them heading into the Championship, but Hughes has high prospects and a chance to be one of the best players in the country. When you think of Raheem Sterling being sold to Manchester City from Liverpool for £49 million, who is an up and coming talent, although it would be hard for you to think it after the shambles during Euro 2016, you can only think that Hughes is worth a lot more than £7 million.

Steve Nicholson of the Derby Telegraph wrote on Monday about the £7 million mentioned fee for Hughes, saying:

“Hughes missed eight months of last season with a serious knee injury suffered in the opening game at Bolton.

“He battled his way back and head coach Darren Wassall described the player’s return to action as like having a new £15 million signing.

“Hughes showed his value when he bossed the games at Brighton and Hull late in the season, and so if Manchester United and Jose Mourinho are interested in the England U21 international they would need to bid higher than £7 million.”

Right now, this rumour is nothing but. Hughes has been linked to many top clubs before and remained at Derby, a team he has played for all his life, so far at least. Whilst it would be good for him to play for a bigger club, as he will all of a sudden be viewed by many more people – it would allow him to grow. I am sure many at Derby feel he is a very talented player, one of the best at the club and they would not stand in his way should he want to further his career. What they would not want is for their player to be sold for a pittance – which is what The Sun suggest he is worth. It would be a great bit of business for Manchester United to sign a player with such prospects for as little as £7 million thought. Derby manager Nigel Pearson, formerly of Leicester City was asked about the speculation linking Hughes and team-mate Jeff Hendrick to other clubs this summer, speaking to the Derby Telegraph he said:

“It is part and parcel of football.

“It’s something you have to deal with and also make things very clear.

“Firstly, we will do whatever we can to keep hold of our best players.

“They are assets, and if you lose your assets you lose them on your own terms.

“I have got no intention of really entering into any sort of debate regarding how things have been reported. You won’t hear me getting involved in those sort of debates.”

When questioned further about Hughes and Hendrick being assets of the club, he replied “Absolutely”. Pearson, refusing to be drawn in on speculation surrounding his players gave some more of his thoughts by saying:

“You will not hear a lot from me until things happen, It is always the correct way to do your business.

“I want to get the best out of the players I already have here and certainly if we add to it then the players who come in we feel will bring more to the squad.”

Last season, Hughes made eight appearances for Derby County in the Championship and failed to score a single goal. His season was cut short after suffering a knee injury against Bolton Wanderers at the start of the season, requiring surgery and faced six months on the sidelines, which turned into eight. Speaking about his injury with The Guardian back in May, Hughes spoke about how he knew it was a serious injury, also speaking about his feelings of confusion with developed into anger, the paranoia. Hughes said:

“I knew straight away it was serious. You never think it’s going to happen to you. I couldn’t walk for a good few weeks after having surgery. You’re pretty much bed-bound. I went from confusion, to anger. You start to think: ‘Am I ever going to get back to where I was?’ I was very paranoid.”

During the eight appearances Hughes made for Derby County, he failed to score a single goal, but he was returning to action from a serious injury, which hit him at a young age. He maintained an 85% pass success rate, also won 61% of his duels, creating eight chances for his team-mates – one per match on average also averaging one defensive action per match. His season was not a write-off, playing wise it might have been, but mentally Hughes will be so much stronger. You can compare his injury, although completely different with that of Luke Shaw, who suffered a double leg fracture back in September. Shaw and Hughes are of similar age and will have had to suffer the same demons on the sidelines – watching their respective teams compete without them, dealing with the mental backlash of them not being able to compete and wrestling with the fact that they might not be able to play to their full potential again – which may not be the case with both of them, but I am sure they would have both been thinking it at some stage of their times on the sidelines.

Hughes have suffered four separate injuries during his career, and one illness – missing 55 matches in around four years – 40 of those from his knee injury suffered last season. Whilst his knee injury will have been the worst one to deal with, he will be much stronger for it. Hughes is in a better position that Luke Shaw is – he has made his return and has eight league appearances to his name without suffering any subsequent injury. Shaw has those demons to battle yet, which will be devastating for him to get through – but much like Hughes, I am sure he will. Hughes will, I am sure, take the Championship by storm this season, should he remain with Derby County, which will be very beneficial for him. Right now, the links to Manchester United might be exciting for him, but it is only a rumour. I am sure if Jose Mourinho or a Manchester United executive contacts the club, it might all be different for him and then it will be something to be excited about. Right now though in this day and age, not everything you read in the newspapers is true – lots of rumours linking players to different clubs are based on nothing more than idle chatter. Whilst I would be keen for Hughes to become a United player, it may not happen and Derby County could keep their star player for another season. One thing is for sure, though, providing the player continues to develop, it will only be a matter of time before the big boys come in for the player and a fee of more than £7 million will be paid for him.

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